Friday, October 8, 2010

Why Not Greinke in Toronto?

One deal AA should explore is the possibility of getting Zack Greinke from KC. Greinke has made no bones about his dissatisfaction with the organization and his team’s inability to score runs for him. How could he not be? He pitched 220 innings, was 10-14, has a nearly 4-1 strikeout to walk ratio and an ERA just over 4.0. Brett Cecil was 15-7 with similar numbers in just 172 innings pitched!

The Royals have got to be thinking they can’t support such comments and might be eager to move him. He’s a #1 pitcher with a bad record because he’s on a bad team. More importantly, the Royals are 2-4 years from having a competitive team and believe me with the plethora of higher level minor league talent on the way they will get there. But without his head in the right place, Greinke's willingness to stay in KC and be part of those winning teams is unlikely.

With the Jays offense he could easily be a 20 game winner. He would likely have won 17-18 games with this year's team and could have helped the Jays push toward 90 wins. Now that would have been an exciting prospect to imagine, playing equal to Boston and pushing Tampa and NY for the Division Crown.

With a constant need for starting pitching, why wouldn't the Royals consider a deal where we would send say Marcum, Zep, and a young pitching prospect for Greinke. We exchange a true #1 starter for a another #1 starter who has shown the leadership qualities you expect from your top starting pitcher - going deep into games, winning after team losses, etc. One thing we do have in the Jays organization is pitching depth. Pehaps it's time to take advantage of this opportunity. It is a win-win where KC moves their development curve along perhaps a year or two and we exchange one #1 starter for another who has already won a Cy Young.

Now imaging Greinke, Romero, Morrow, Cecil, Drabek as a starting 5 and you have a rotation to rival Tampa’s. All of the starters would be capable of winning 15-20 games and would scare any team including Boston, Tampa, NY. I don’t know of any team other than perhaps Tampa and Atlanta that has the pitching depth to offer such a package. This is one of those “under the radar” deals like the Escobar deal, that nobody would see coming and might not be available under other circumstances.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Losing Hoffpauir a Calculated Move

The Jays placed Jarrett Hoffpauir on waivers to try and create some roster flexibility and lost him to San Diego Padres. It was a calculated move on AA's part but one that won't cause much hardship or give AA any heartburn. Why? Because the Jays have a similar player in Brad Emaus already on the roster who is capable of playing both 2B and 3B, has some power, and just above average defense.

Though Hoffpauir had slightly better stats at AAA, he had 2 auditions with the Jays this year and didn't distinguish himself in either. Granted the sample size is small, but obviously the Jays saw enough to decide it would be a minor loss if claimed on waivers. Remember also, that Emaus has had strong spring training performances the last couple of years so after a solid year at Las Vegas, they may be setting him up for a possible audition at 2B if they decide to leave Bautista in RF and move Aaron Hill to 3B as he offered to do.

Though not flashy or dramatic, Emaus is a solid player hitting .298 with 10 homers and an OBP of .395. If you extrapolate his numbers for at bats (Emaus had 40% fewer than Hoffpauir) then the homer and RBI totals are almost identical. The Jays simply didn't need to protect two players of the same type on the roster though they'd have kept Hoffpauir around as insurance in the minors if he had slipped through waivers. Barring an offseason infield moves, Emaus could be competing for the second base job in the spring with Hill playing third.

I don't think anyone including AA thinks this is the ideal solution so I expect some offseason activity, but this is likely the fall back situation the team has in mind.

How Anthopoulos Will Select a Manager

The Jays have a team that is young, inexperienced and likely to get younger as guys like Drabek and Arencibia become a permanent part of the roster. It would seem appropriate that AA would select a manager who can not only relate to the young guys, but could also grow into the job as this team matures and realizes its potential. Someone like Wallach or Sandberg, two highly rated and seasoned triple A managers with some success behind them could be just what the Jays need to mould a young group into a team that realizes it has the talent to compete with the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East. Alternatively, they will pick Butterfield or an equivalent coach who is rated as a top managerial prospect already with a major league team.

Rewarding an internal candidate who has risen through the organization (edge to Butterfield) may be a consideration. If you read the August issue of Entrepreneur magazine, this is the strategy the Twins have used to build a loyal, first class, and successful organzization. Someone as analytical as AA will have looked at all the top organizations to determine what the key success factors are. On the other hand, he may regard this selection process as “just business” and pick whoever he thinks fits Toronto best and has the likelihood of greatest success - meaning winning on the field.

These factors eliminate candidates like Valentine, LaRussa, and Torre immediately who would all want jobs with higher profile organizations and more control. AA is keeping a lid on interviews and negotiations as there are multiple teams looking for new managers and several teams vying for the same candidates who may be his favorites. As always, he won't be rushed and we will find that his selection whoever it is, will be based on a specific set of criteria and strong business reasons.



Saturday, September 11, 2010

Infield Issues Surface

After watching Bautista last night make a highlight reel play on an Evan Longoria grounder, I may have changed my mind regarding making him our full time third baseman in 2011. My initial thoughts were that losing his superb defense and outstanding arm in right field didn't make sense and that we had lots of infielders to plug the hole at third. However, after viewing last night's outstanding play at third, by Bautista I realized that third base is a much harder position to fill than the outfield and that we have a very competent third baseman already in Bautista. Though our outfield isn't as strong minus Bautista, it is competent if not outstanding with Wells, Lewis, and Snider.

My greater concern recently has been the defensive play uof our shortstop and second baseman. Both Hill and Escobar are capable of gold glove defense at their relative positions yet they've made too many bobbles and errant throws recently to resemble anything of that caliber. Earlier discussions about moving Hill to third base to take some pressure off his defense and take advantage of his power are signs that he's also not doing the job at second base. Other potential candidates to replace him at second such as Brad Emaus and Jarrett Hoffpauir might replace Hills offense and play passable defense at second. This would allow Hill's move to third with an expected improvement in defense at that position. But there's nothing like having a true power-hitting third baseman and Bautista profiles better at third than anyone else the jays could put there.

It's clear that our best option for solid infield defense with above-average power numbers includes a Bautista at third, Escobar at short and Hill at second. Our issues finding a replacement for Lyle Overbay at first are being excluded for the purposes of this discussion, but remain an issue as well. Last night's errant throw by Escobar that resulted in the winning run by the Rays was exactly the kind of play one envisions when hearing Bobby Cox's comments subsequent to the trade in June. Escobar has incredible talent and makes some brilliant plays in the field, but the times he does appear disconnected and make errors on routine plays. He can be frustrating at times since everyone knows his talent level. It's probably best to remember how many years we struggled filling the shortstop position here in Toronto, remembering it's a long season, and just enjoy Escobar's overall play, his above-average defense and solid bat.

Keep in mind, we also have Hechavarria coming with his gold glove defense in the next 1 to 2 years. The Jays are going to have a nice problem trying to find spots for him and Escobar and Hill and a decision of which one will cover third base, until we develop or trade for a prototypical third baseman. So enjoy the ride along the way remembering that Bautista is likely only here for another 1 to 2 years and taking solace in the fact that our future infield without him is still pretty attractive.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rule 5 Draft Preview

Shawn Hill and Robert Ray were called up to the Jays following Las Vegas' final game of the season last night in which Brad Mills had a very good outing. Surprisingly Mills didn't get the call and may be done for the year as Jays already have a sense for Mills from his previous visit to the big team earlier in the year.

Hill is going to get the start on Friday as Jays want to see what he can do in preparation for next year and to gather more information for finalizing their 40 man roster after the season. Ray may get some innings for the same reason. Ray has dropped way down the depth chart but still has the stuff to be a major leaguer likely as a 5th starter or middle reliever like Camp or Janssen. Jays need to know whether to use a roster spot on him or expose him to the rule 5 draft in December and use the spot for another player they view with more upside. With the lack of pitching, either of Hill or Ray would likely be snapped up by a team, like Milwaukee who is in desperate need of pitching.

Perhaps AA is hoping they have some good outings in September which would generate trade interest in the off season. Alternatively they could be used to sweeten a trade deal. It would be better to get something for them then let them be drafted off our roster. Remember, teams don't have to protect players until after at least 4 minor league seasons. So if AA can get a younger player in a trade for someone like Ray, it gives him some roster flexibility as well.

Below is my guess on the 40 man roster come December. With a full roster, the Jays couldn't draft anyone in the rule 5 draft so AA likely will leave 1 spot vacant "just in case" he sees someone he likes. The players I see at risk of being left off the list are, McGowan (depending on medical and workout reports, Robert Ray, Brian Jerolman (likely to be a journeyman backup catcher in major leagues).

Players like Drabek, Stewart, David Cooper don't yet have to be put on the roster unless they make it to the big team.

Infielders
1B Mike Jacobs
2B Aaron Hill
SS Yunel Escobar
3B Shawn Bowman
C JP Arencibia
C Jose Molina
C Brian Jerolman
DH Adam Lind
INF Mike McCoy
INF Brad Emaus
INF Jarrett Hoffpauir
SS Adeiny Hechevarria

Outfielders
LF Fred Lewis
CF Vernon Wells
LF Travis Snider
RF Jose Bautista
CF Darin Mastroianni
RF Adam Loewen
RF Moises Sierra

Pitchers
SP Shaun Marcum
SP Ricky Romero
SP Brandon Morrow
SP Brett Cecil
SP Shawn Hill
SP Jesse Litsch
SP Mark Rzepczynski
RP Brad Mills
RP Jesse Carlson
RP Kevin Gregg
RP Casey Janssen
RP Josh Roenicke
RP David Purcey
RP Shawn Camp
SP Luis Perez
SP Dustin McGowan
RP Jo Jo Reyes
SP Scott Richmond
SP Robert Ray
RP Ronald Uviedo
RP Alan Farina

Jays have several players who could be taken in the rule 5 draft. Obviously, this list would need to be updated after the actual 40 man rosters are set prior to the draft. By then Baseball America has a list of the best talents available in the draft. However, I list my preliminary thoughts for discussion.

Of Aaron Matthews
1B Brian Dopirak
OF Adam Calderone
SP Reider Gonzalez
RP Adrian Martin

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Gregg Will Close in 2011....but Who Will Close in 2012

Great article about Kevin Gregg on Jays website today.


Gregg's option for 2011 makes him an affordable closer and we really have few other options within our system other than Frasor who is likely to sign elsewhere and Accardo who’s relationship with the Jays has soured and will be moving on. It’s unlikely the Jays would try to use one of their options at double AA like Farquahar, Farina or Magnuson and trust this difficult task to a rookie. They do have Roenicke who has the stuff to be a closer but would have to throw more strikes. As you know, it’s not just having the stuff to close but the mentality to do it as well and often takes a year or 2 to grow into it like Henke and Ward.

Potential free agent closers include:

Closers
Octavio Dotel (37) - $4.5MM club option with a $500K buyout
Frank Francisco (31)
Brian Fuentes (35)
Kevin Gregg (33) - $4.5MM club option for '11, $8.75MM for '11-'12
Trevor Hoffman (43) - mutual option worth $7-8.5MM; buyout at $500K-1MM
Chad Qualls (32)
Jon Rauch (32)
Mariano Rivera (41)
Rafael Soriano (31)
Billy Wagner (39) - $6.5MM option vests with 50 games finished
Kerry Wood (34) - $11MM club option

None of these guys is any better option or has a better record other than Soriano and I think the Rays will resign him. I believe Jays will pickup his 2011 option to keep things stabilized for next year and take their chances on free agents and re-evaluate in-house options at the end of next year.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Peek Into the Future

If you wanted to get excited about the Jays future, all one would have to do is to look at the minor league box scores tonight.

In Auburn, Sean Nolin, Brandon Berl, Sean Shoffit, and Drew Permison combined on a 2 hit shutout striking out 9 though they did walk 7. Three of the four were draft choices this year while Shoffit was drafted in 2005 as an infielder. Shoffit was never able to put it together at the plate though he always had an exceptional arm. Finally this year the Jays and Shoffit decided it was time for him to take a shot as a pitcher and after a rough start, his results improved as the year progressed. In rookie ball he struck out 23 in 20 innings while walking only 5 prior to his elevation to Auburn where, including tonight's performance, he has pitched 5 scoreless innings. Perhaps we can catch lightning in a bottle again as we did with Dave Stieb. We will know better next year as Shoffit is moves up a level or 2 and faces better hitters. With a similar arm to Shoffit, third baseman Kevin Ahrens could be the next candidate for such a move to the mound if he doesn't hit successfully next year.

At Lansing, Drew Hitchison and Casey Lawrence who both started the year in Auburn combined on a 9 inning 6 hit, 1 run victory striking out 9 and walking only 2. Both pitchers were dominant before being promoted and are showing they may be too talented to start next year in low A ball. Just a reminder that Lawrence was a free agent signing this year after the draft. What a find!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Some Early Thoughts on 2011

Morrow has done an awesome job the last few starts, has the best stuff on the staff, and will likely surfact as our #1 starter next year. However, he needs to learn as Halladay did, that you don't have to strike everybody out. He is having quality starts but lasting 6 or 7 innings because he throws too many pitches. Now I'm not complaining, nor is 6 or 7 IP giving up 1 or 2 earned runs and striking out 8-10 bad. But instead of striking out 12 he would be better to make the hitters put the ball in play more, trust your defense and save some pitches and wear and tear on the arm while going deeper into games. That means on occasion finishing a game as well to save your bullpen. Halladay learned over time it isn't about the glamor stats, it's about wins and going deep into games. Perhaps Morrow will learn this over time. In the meantime you can see him gaining confidence as Romero did last year. I believe next year he'll come out of spring like gangbusters trusting his stuff and likely get 15 wins. In fact all 4 starters are capable of 15 wins.

With 38 games left, each starter has 6-7 starts left. Though they have a tough schedule, it is possible with some luck that 1 or 2 of the guys could hit 14-15 wins. Marcum has the best chance with 11 wins already, but as you know sometimes these guys go on a tear of strong starts or games where the team scores a lot of runs for them, so it is possible.

At the beginning of the year I predicted a .500 year for the Jays with this anticipated number of wins from the starters to get them there:

Marcum and Romero - 30 wins
Other starters - 30 wins
Bullpen - 21 wins

So far - Marcum and Romero - 21 wins
Other starters - 26 wins (this includes 19 from Cecil and Morrow plus those from Tallet, Litsch, Eveland, Rzep, Mills) Bullpen - 18 wins (with 14 blown saves - this is normal but could have turned into a few more wins for starters)

Forecast to end of season:
Starters have won 38% of games, at the same pace, with 38 games left they should win 14 more games which would make their final total exactly 61. Scary..............

At their same winning % they would finish 85-77 which would be a great year considering the expectations from everyone including team management. From that standpoint Cito has done an awesome job and set them up for a more impressive future. Obviously, the right manager to take them over the hump to the next level to compete with the Rays and Yanks is of paramount importance.

Questions for next year

1. Who plays first?

I don't believe Lind is the answer. His glove is unproven yet he hasn't performed nearly as well this year as full time DH. Like a lot of guys, he might do better if he has a full-time position and played 1B in college. They'll likely give him every chance as he has no other position options and needs to hit better if he's going to be full time DH.

Jays traded for Mike Jacobs from the Mets who didn't cost much, is still under 30 and has performed previously at the big league level. Could he be another Bautista?

David Cooper has started to put it together the second half at New Hampshire. He still doesn't hit for average and walks too little but HR and RBI totals improved and he plays decent defense. He'll get a shot to show what he can do in the spring.

Overbay has indicated he would like to come back and he could as a last resort. Great defense but as Ken Rosenthal put it in one article, the fact that he doesn't scare pitchers is a tell tale sign he's likely done.

Free agents - nobody coming available who would fit the Jays other than Adam Dunn and he's going to be pursued by lots of teams and wants a boat load of money.

2. Who returns from the pen?

Free agents include Downs, Frasor, Camp, Tallet

Tallet is non-tendered and Frasor and Downs will be offered a contract due to their Type A status meaning draft choices if they sign elsewhere. Camp has had a great year and is a solid, if unspectacular reliever and will be offered arbritration. Janssen and Purcey have been solid. I believe Carlson and Roenicke (who throws smoke) will be back. Accardo will make too much money and he is looking to change organizations to get another opportunity at a big league bullpen. Gregg's option will be picked up as he's performed well this year and we have no other options at closer.

I don't know how the team will be able to keep Drabek off the team if he has a decent spring so he likely is the 5th starter. Not room for all of Litsch, Rzep, Richmond, Shawn Hill, Reyes and maybe McGowan so I see some potential deals being made trading pitching for hitting or prospects.


3. Third base?

Encarnacion will be non-tendered.

Some good free agent options who could garner interest from AA. This might be the one spot he spends some dough as payroll will be down next year. B.J. Ryan's $10 million finally comes off the books.

Alternatively, there is Hoffpauir and Emaus at Las Vegas who are capable of playing third. Not as much power as the Jays would like but better defense and average. Shawn Bowman has had a decent year at 3B and has a good glove. I'm sure he'll get an invitation to spring training and a chance to show what he can do. Everyone wants to see Bautista remain in RF.

4. What about Hill and Lind?

Let's hope this year was an aberration. I just think they're swinging at bad pitches and need to be more selective. They strike out too much and need to hit more defensively with 2 strikes. It's only my opinion, but they have to do better for this team to rise in the standings.

5. Outfield?

Snider, Wells, Bautista, Lewis looks pretty good to me. Snider continues to look more confident at the plate each year but needs to put it together even if he is still young. It took Lind and Hill 2-3 years so it's Snider's time. Lewis could play regularly and we could use his speed at the top of the lineup but where do you put him? If Bautista isn't a one year wonder we look great defensively in the outfield. If only Vernon could lay off the high pitches. He is what he is and with his contract is going nowhere.

6. Catcher?

They'll re-sign Molina and Arencibia will get his shot.

Buck will be tendered a contract but will go for a multi-year deal after a great year. He'll sign somewhere and Jays will get a draft pick (Type B)

By the way, Brian Jerolman who has always had major league ready defense, is having a great year. Not a huge power guy but his OBP is awesome and his average up. I hope the Jays protect him as I see a perfect 1-2 punch with him and Arencibia in 2012.

7. Rookies - possible break through?

We know about Drabek and Stewart. I predict Drabek will make the team out of spring and Stewar could be a 2nd half addition as he continues to fine-tune his stuff.

Magnuson, Farquahar having good years at New Hampshire and could be breakout candidates to make the Jays. Watch out for Alan Farina, great fastball and was a closer in college. Has fought injuries over last couple of years but finally at double A and perform well. 13 IP 5H 8BB 20K

Cooper at 1B I mentioned.

Shawn Bowman having a great year at 3B - 22 homers and 69 RBI, plays great defense. With our need at third he could get a shot if he has a strong spring.

OF Eric Thames is going to have a 30 HR and 100 RBI year. Likely going to AAA but you never know.

OF Chris Lubanski, former 1st round pick of KC at Las Vegas hitting over .300 with power. Could he be a candidate at DH?

SP Chad Jenkins, our 1st rounder in 2009 is having a rough first year at Lansing an Dunedin. However, he has great stuff and with a strong start next year could be knocking on the door the second half.

SP Deck Maguire - scouts of said he could start at double A. He'll likely start at Dunedin then be move to double A after 8-10 successful starts. This means that if he performs well there he could also be a candidate for the big team in the second half.

Preliminary prediction for 2011

Buck, Downs, Frasor, all sign elsewhere. Jays get 5 compensation picks.

Our starters will be more mature and with the addition of Drabek there will be no weak spots. We'll have better replacements in case of the inevitable injuries and lots of depth. Starting staff will be one of the best in the league. Someone will win 18-20 games and become a Cy Young candidate. (my bet is on Cecil). Staff ERA between 3.50 and 3.75.

Some new faces in the bullpen - lefties Purcey, Carlson, Rzep, righties Janssen, Camp, Roenicke less maturity but better stuff. Expect more ups and downs from the pen. Setup man will have to emerge. Gregg another solid year at closer.

Lind and Hill have bounce back years.

Snider breaks out and hits 20 homers, 80 RBI

Bautista comes back to earth but hits 25 HR and 100 RBI

Wells has similar year - 25 HR, 80 RBI

Replacements at 3B (??), DH (??), C (Arencibia)

Offense doesn't hit nearly as many homers and will have to manufacture more runs. Partially made up by return years from Hill and Lind.

Drabek makes his appearance

A breakout year comes from unexpected rookie who forces his way onto the team or emerges due to injuries. My favorites are David Cooper at 1B or Shawn Bowman at 3B.

AA makes another deal of the Escobar type, perhaps for a 3B. Teams that need pitching who have position players to trade - Milwaukee (badly), Marlins, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh (badly)

Jays draft more position players in 2011

Record of 92-70 puts pressure on Tampa, Boston, Yankees but falls just short of playoff spot.

More Thoughts on Our Drafted Pitchers

Word is that Jays 4th round choice this year Sam Dyson may be a better pitching talent than their 1st rounder Deck Maguire. He dropped that low because of a history of injuries but you know how that goes. Once he gets healthy he can focus on putting his stuff together. Jays got 3 pitchers - Maguire, Dyson, Wochiekowski who could all move quickly and be ready for the SHOW in a couple of years. One scout has indicated that Maguire is possibly capable of handling double A right out of the gate but that the Jays will move him slower due to their pitching depth at the big league level. The 7th overall pick, Matt Harvey (similar abilities to Maguire) was selected by the Mets and because of their need for pitching and they've announced Harvey will start next year at double A.

All in all they've had a great year and exceeded expectations. AA has put together a new philosophy and foundation for a strong future. They could surprise a lot of people even next year depending on who the position players end of being. But certainly a couple of years from now they should be competing with the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees. What a division!

With all the concern over dropping attendance and lack of interest in an exciting Jays team, I can't believe Rogers would pull such a stunt with his new network TV arrangements. Money talks and they have the leverage. You would think they would want to encourage as many Jays viewers as possible who once interest developed would turn into ticket purchasers.

Jays Updates - August 30

It’s looking more and more like Rzep may not have fully recovered from that broken finger. If you recall, he pitched great in the spring and looked like he would break camp with the Jays until he got hit by a ball. He doesn’t have the stuff to overpower guys and needs to pitch to contact and keep the ball in play. Walks will be his downfall. Still looks like a serviceable pitcher though likely not as a starter with the Jays. He could end up fighting with Purcey for Downs spot as the setup man.

After Drabek threw another 5 innings yesterday of 1 hit ball with 5 SO and with an ERA under 3.0 he has got to be a favorite to open the season as the 5th starter with the Jays next year. I read one scout that said Drabek pitched mean……..meaning he has the killer instinct. I don’t know how they’ll keep him off the team. David Cooper hit another homer yesterday and now has 20. His average up about 30-40 points in the last 2 months. Apparently he needed some maturing and perhaps can see the light of opportunity with Wallace gone, Overbay not expected to be back and Lind’s glove uncertain at first. He could be that sleeper I talked about who comes out of nowhere to make the team or it could be 3B Shawn Bowman who also has had a solid year at New Hampshire.

Hechevarria has had a solid 2nd half and looks like he may only need another year to be ready. Look out for Alan Farina who has been doing some closing the last few games. Now has ERA of 1.65 with 24 SO in 16 innings. Uviedo who was the guy they got from Pittsburgh for Eveland has had a better 2nd half. 76 IP only 64 H and 89 SO though his ERA is over 4.0. He’s another future bullpen candidate. Pitching, pitching and more pitching coming……………got to love it!

More talk today about moving the AAA team from Las Vegas. The agreement is up and other teams in similar situations also want to move their affiliates, though the locales aren’t great from a geography standpoint for the Jays. What they want to get away from is the high altitude ballparks in the Pacific Coast League where you can’t trust the numbers guys produce. It can also be demoralizing for pitchers. I think they’d prefer to be in the International League again.

Kevin Ahrens hit another homer at Lansing yesterday. Now has 8 HR and average up to .266. A full season translates to 15-20 homers and 70 RBI’s which is not a bad year. Perhaps he’s found his stroke now that he’s given up switch hitting and gotten his career back on track. Still only 21, if he can start the season at Dunedin and produce the same, he could end up in AA ball before year end and be on track as our future 3B as expected when drafted. The same can’t be said for Justin Jackson who just appears lost. He’s only hitting .250 with no power and 18 errors……….yikes! He’s spent much of the year playing 2B. He’s going to need to make a statement at the beginning of the year or he could be looking at being released. Too many other players in the system are passing him by.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Perfect Year to Trade Wells

What could we get for Vernon Wells today? The quote "trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late” has been attributed to the great Branch Rickey who was the General Manager of the Cardinals and then the Dodgers. Ken Rosenthal makes the point in analyzing the Ryan Howard deal that power hitters are in greater demand since the post steroid era penalties established in 2004. Though the contract is still a stumbling block, a CF who hits near .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBI and plays strong defense is a rare commodity today and should be in strong demand come the end of June should his bat continue.

Look what the Yankees paid to get Curtis Granderson who has averaged 25 homers, 70 RBI, 19 SB and 4 Errors over the last 3 years. It took Ian Kennedy, Phil Coke and Austin Jackson to pry Granderson loose from the Tigers, Granderson appears to have peaked in 2009 with 30 homers and 71 RBI. Yet in the previous 8 years Wells has averaged 25 homers, 108 RBI, 10 SB, and 2 Errors.

The Jays would undoubtedly have to eat some salary to make a trade happen, but this likely is the perfect year to make a deal. Given that Wells is not part of our future and with a boat load of teams needing a big bat, his value will never be higher. The Giants in particular are one of the top teams on that list with the Braves and perhaps even the Angels and Marlins considering changes. We now have Fred Lewis to take over CF temporarily, and though he isn’t a long-term solution, he at least can provide admirable defense while AA continues to explore a longer term option.

One major prospect with some upside and 1 or 2 others with some potential would likely get it done similar to the Granderson deal. The Braves, Marlins, and Giants all have farm systems rated in the top 10 and have the prospects to get such a deal done. The Giants have several top outfield prospects, the Marlins have a couple of interesting future third baseman, while the Braves as usual have lots of pitching on the rise.

Wells is at the top of the MLB leader board in total bases and doubles and is near the top in several other categories. His OBP shows he is more patient at the plate and he is slugging over .700. His stats are virtually identical to Matt Kemp of the Dodgers though Wells is outslugging him by 130 points and getting on base more frequently by 50 points. So who would you trade to get Matt Kemp? If Wells continues his hot season start by the end of May, look for several suitors to come calling and Alex Anthopolous to pull the trigger. Wells would move to a potential contender and the Jays would continue to build toward 2012. It would be a win for both teams and reward Wells for his loyalty.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday Tidbits

Power Can Cover Up Other Deficiencies

Ever wonder why some one dimensional players like Jim Thome, Adam Dunn, and yes even Adam Lind get paid the big bucks? It's because teams will accept high strikeout rates to get the home runs and RBI that come along with those booming bats. A look at the Jays team stats would lead you to believe that they are playing just average baseball through the opening 8 games. They are in the top tier in pitching but below the middle of the pack with the bats...............except for homers and strikeouts where Blue Jays lead the AL. This provides more evidence that their early success is due to good pitching supported by timely hitting and power.

Jays have really only 3 bats going to date, Lind, Wells, Gonzalez, and even Buck is hitting better than expected. However, Snider, Overbay, Bautista, Encarnacion, and even Hill haven't really got off the ground yet this season. Fortunately, that timely hitting and power has led us to a 6-2 record in support of strong starting pitching. Expect the strong pitching to continue and the hitting to become more balanced once the other bats get going.

Don't Sweat It If Starters Faulter

The 3 most likely pitchers to be called up if the need arises are Brett Cecil, Brad Mills, and Robert Ray (Rzepczynski is on DL). Through 6 games at Las Vegas, these 3 pitchers have 4 starts, with a pitching line of 22 IP, 20 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 30 SO, ERA of 1.64. They won't duplicate those stats in the majors, but it does make a major statement about the depth of our starting pitching. This doesn't even count the potential return of McGowan, Richmond, and Litsch later in the year. You want to dig deeper into the organization? How about Luis Perez, Zach Stewart, and Kyle Drabek at New Hampshire. Through 5 games they have 3 starts with a pitching line of 20 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 19 SO, ERA 1.80. Now if we had such depth in position players to match.

The Real Adeiny Hechavarria


Forget all the scouts and executives who have seen this young SS and have made their assessments of his potential. Why not hear from someone who has seen him play regularly and
rise through he Cuban ranks. White Sox SS Alexei Ramirez has more first hand knowledge than anyone and thinks he'll be a star.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gaston Loses This One

Good old Brian Tallet........and good old Cito Gaston loyal to the end even at the expense of a loss.

You've got Jake Peavy on the ropes, a 2 run lead after 5, and your starter is in line for his second win while not having a great day, wouldn't it make sense with the strength of our bullpen to get out of Dodge with the lead and hand it over to some fresh arms? Not Gaston! He's got to ride his starter another inning, throw 27 pitches, and let Tallet put himself in a position to lose the "W" for him AND his team. Fortunately, Jays scratch and claw for another run in the bottom of the inning to go ahead 7-6 before Gaston decides the prudent thing is to hand it over to the pen.


This is the part of Gaston's managing style that drives people crazy. We all appreciate loyalty and the players love him for it. Letting his pitchers struggle a little to gain confidence by facing adversity is an admirable goal, but not at the expense of the team goal which is to win the game. Tallet had already thrown 75 pitches and didn't have his best stuff today. With a bullpen that hasn't been taxed so far this year due to the number of quality starts, and with 2 pithers who haven't even made an appearance, today was the day to hand it over and run 2-3-4 relievers out there if necessary to put this game to bed.


Heading into this game, how many of us would have loved to get to the 6th inning with a 2 run lead on Jake Peavy? Can you say ALL OF US! It is such tough games against the opposition's ace that will show what we're made of as a team. When the team performs against the top teams, we don't need the manager to put the game at risk.


The relievers as it turned out, turned it over to Jason Frasor in the 9th with just a one run lead instead of 2 or 3. Did the extra pressure of a small margin of error contribute to the homer Frasor gave up? We will never know, but the extra run always makes a difference. So after Frasor gives up the tying run who does Gaston go to but ..................Jeremy Accardo, a fresh arm for his first outing of the year. After a solid first inning, he is forced to stay in the game now that we're in extra innings and gives up a triple to Mark Teahen to give the Sox the lead.

The way it should have played out would have been Accardo in the 6th, then Camp and Downs leading to Frasor in the 9th with a 2 or 3 run lead. The outcome likely would almost certainly have been a victory instead of a blown save and loss in extra innings.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jays Won't Stay Under The Radar Long

Teams Will Notice Jays Soon

It's a small sample of only 5 games, but as I predicted several times during the spring, the Jays are showing a team that is capable AND performing at a level that will lead them to a .500 record.

Pitching

Good pitching almost always beats good hitting and it is the Blue Jays strength. They are 5th in ERA, 2nd in hits given up, 5th best in walks, and have only given up 4 home runs. Given that Brandon Morrow is the only starter with overpowering stuff, the Jays starters will succeed by keeping the ball in the park, keeping hitters off base, and keeping them off balance. The ability to throw strikes and throw off a hitters timing by changing looks and speeds is more important than pure stuff as 300+ game winners Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine proved time and again. Dana Eveland did that yesterday and if Jays are to have a winning season, it is this approach which will take them there until flamethrowing prospects like Zack Steware and Kyle Drabek arrvive on the scene. There are however enough power arms in the pen, that it should be a strength for the team and be near the top of the AL stats board. All drama aside, the closers, Frasor and Gregg, have gotten it done and with a few hiccups will continue to do so. The starters have been so good, that Merkin Valdez hasn't even had an outing yet. Nice problem............let's hope it continues.

Hitting

Though the Blue Jays are in the middle of the pack in batting average they are amongst the leaders in homers, RBI, and OBP. It is early yet and the power was supplied early by Vernon Wells and many of the walks by virtue of opposition pitching, but the Jays are capable of putting up enough runs to be dangerous and support strong pitching. Just as we don't want to get too excited about Vernon Wells hot start, we shouldn't be too concerned about players who haven't gotten it going yet.
Aaron Hill hasn't gotten it going yet but we all know he's going to hit. Lyle Overbay's recent seasons aside, he is a good hitter and will have a respectable showing. Travis Snider has shown more patience at the plate this year and had a couple of timely hits and just needs to be in the lineup every day to settle in to the breakout season I predict. Alex Gonzalez bat (and defense) has been a nice surprise and Adam Lind has been .....................well Adam Lind of last season.

Fielding

The 4 errors in the first 3 games was a little disconcerting, but the team has responded to play errorless ball with some spectacular defense since. We must play strong defense to support a pitching staff that relies on putting the ball in play to get outs. We have the talent to finish in the middle of the pack. Anything beyond that would be a bonus.

Recap

The Jays are off to a similar start to last season. Except for a blown save they would be undefeated and have already had a couple of comeback victories, a weakness in recent years. Opponents on the schedule in April include the White Sox who have a good team, the Angels, Rays, and Red Sox. Therefore their record at the end of this month should be a better indicator of this team's capabilities than it was a year ago when they had a weak schedule to start the season.
The team will lose some games to those good teams but look for a 12-12 record to start May.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Opening Night on the Farm Shows Mixed Results

Opening night on the farm proved that it’s not only the big club which has lots of pitching talent on their roster.

Las Vegas

Brad Mills showed that you don’t have to have overpowering stuff to be successful as a pitcher. Known for an average fastball but outstanding change, Mills struck out 9 and only gave up 2 hits over 6 innings and was never in trouble. Unfortunately, Trevor Reckling, one of the Angels top pitching prospects matched him for 5 innings and it took the 51’s until the 7th to score so Mills didn’t record the win. Sean Henn who pitched a scoreless inning as did Purcey and Rommie Lewis got the timely “W”. Overall the pitching staff only gave up 3 hits.

New Hampshire

Kyle Drabek showed overpowering stuff in 5 innings striking out 8, but walked 2 and gave up a first inning homer to allow 4 runs overall. Luis Perez followed with 3 perfect innings striking out 5. Daniel Farquhar had a perfect inning of his own in the 9th for the save. Brad Emaus continued with his spring performance recording 3 hits and 2 RBI, while catcher Brian Jerolman had 2 hits and 2 RBI of his own in support.

Dunedin

Our single A team couldn’t do anything right on opening night with only 1 of 5 pitchers having a scoreless outing and recording only 3 hits. The only saving grace was Travis d’Arnaud getting his first hit as a Blue Jay and hitting it in the seats for a 2 run homer.

Lansing

The Jays got 5-2/3 of 3 hit, 1 run relief to support starter Ryan Shopshire who gave up 5 runs but it wasn’t enough as that single run occurred in the 11th and led to a 6-5 loss. Both Nestor Molina and Dustin Antolin notched 3 K’s and neither gave up a hit but Evan Crawford struggled and recorded the loss. Ryan Schimpf had an outstanding start to the season with 2 hits, a homer, and 4 RBI to go with Eric Eiland's 3 hits.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Leadership On Several Fronts

Do we love Jason Frasor now? He made it interesting again but came back from a leadoff walk to strikeout the next two before recording the third out for his second save in 3 opportunities.

How can you not love the fight in this young team? Romero gives us a brilliant start only to be outperformed by Ranger starter C.J. Wilson. Under normal circumstances we would be starting the 9th inning expecting a save for the win. In this case, the Jays did what the best teams do, they found a way to win. Though the tying run came off the sizzling home run bat of Vernon Wells, he only created the opportunity. It took the subsequent at bats by bottom half of the order and a clutch single by Mike McCoy to provide the lead.

Janssen looked overpowering in his single inning before Frasor closed it out. Romero and Wilson put on a pitching clinic which baseball purists like me love. What impressed me most was the key hits in pressure situations and the fact the hitting was spread throughout the lineup. Strong "team" focused performances like today will not only create success but mature a young club like the Jays.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Now That's the Script I Was Talking About

Gaston's Confidence in Tallet Well Deserved Tonight

I've been riding the Jays all spring for their continued plans to make Tallet part of their starting rotation when I don't believe it is his strongest role. If he shows more performances reminiscent of tonight I will finally give it up and accept the professional baseball people know better. Let's see first if he can be consistent for a couple of months.

Tallet gave up only 2 earned runs and wasn't phased at all by the back jacks in the 4th. All he did was get back to the way he had been pitching and finished 6-2/3 innings with 6 strikeouts. Gregg followed with 1-1/3 innings of overpowering stuff before Frasor recorded his first save with 2 strikeouts of his own. He provided some drama by giving up a leadoff double to raise the emotions of fans who saw the same thing the day before leading to a blown save. It was the pitching script I keep writing about and expect season long for the Jays. It's also a pitching formula that will keep the Jays interesting and competitive this year.

The Highlight Reel

Vernon Wells with 2 homers and 3 RBI. He looks more comfortable at the plate right now than at any time in 2009. As I've previously said, one or more of he, Oberbay and Encarnacion have to have comeback years for the Jays to make .500 and Wells is off and running in that quest. Travis Snider looks more mature and patient at the plate taking a couple of walks before he got a pitch to hit that he drove to LF for a double. One of those walks was with the bases loaded and drove in a run.

Stuff To Worry About

Encarnacion with his 2nd error in as many games and the Jays with 3 overall tonight. It didn't hurt them overall tonight but the Jays need to play strong defense so they don't blow good outings by a young pitching staff. The team needs to spend a lot of time with John Buck on pitch identification and selection. He looked awful but is a big strong guy and if he can make better contact is capable of 15-20 homers. Don't expect Snider to hit 9th for long. He and Buck will be swapping spots in the batting order once Snider has a solid few weeks.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Jays Hammer Astros

A Winning Formula

Brandon Morrow answered all the questions today and is ready to start the season as the Jays 4th starter. After giving up only a run on 5 hits with 6 strikeouts in 5 innings, Morrow was extremely effective and proved once again the Jays have the pitching talent to play at the .500 level in spite of their inexperience. Though he walked 3, Morrow threw 54 of 86 pitches for strikes and wasn't really hurt by the passes. If he can improve command even slightly he could be a dominating force on the mound this year with his mid 90's fastball overpowering hitters. Dana Eveland followed him for 3 innings and did throw strikes but gave up 5 hits and 2 ER.

Most everyone in the lineup had a hit and Hill continued his scorching bat with 3 hits and his 6th homer of the spring. Notably they hit better with runners in scoring position and Encarnacion appeared much improved with a homer and 4 RBI. Travis Snider showed a good eye at the plate and ended up on base 4 times as he took a couple of walks in addition to his 2 hits.

An insignificant 9th inning saw minor leaguer Sean Henn allow damage from a 3 run homer following an error by SS Jesus Merchan. This situation would have called for Casey Janssen or Jeremy Accardo under normal circumstances and would likely have had a better outcome. But give Henn credit for rebounding to limit further damage and get out of the inning.

Today's game is indicative of what we can expect from the Blue Jays this year. Effective pitching which frequently gives up less than 4 runs a game and enough timely hitting spread throughout the lineup to plate enough runs to win. It is a formula which will give us 80 or so wins and make us dangerous to teams expecting a cakewalk when playing us.

A Potential Trade to Remember

Hill Would Bring a Prospect Bounty

I love Jeremy Sandler’s article in the National Post about trading Aaron Hill. I believe it was Branch Rickey when as a Dodger executive said “better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late.” Sandler’s article speaks directly to that concept.

I don’t think there is anyone in baseball including the Jays who expected the extent of Hill’s breakout year, surpassing 30 homers and 100 RBI. If anyone had said Hill will have 20 homers and 80 RBI and play outstanding defense, all Blue Jays fans and executives would have been ecstatic. It’s for this reason that nobody anticipates Hill repeating last year’s numbers. This would have been the year to trade him “one year too early” knowing that due to his age, contract, clubhouse leadership we could receive something in the order of the Roy Halladay haul in return.

Though nobody would like to see a young talent like Hill gone, 2B is one of the easier positons to replace in baseball and we have a couple of candidates waiting in the wings even it they wouldn’t quite match Hill’s performance on the field. Brad Emaus has shown himself to be a capable if unspectacular player who would be solid at second and may still have some room to grow as a player. Mike McCoy who is with the team as both an IF and OF replacement would add an element of speed to the lineup which Hill can’t bring and has shown he is capable of playing at the big league level.

The same argument might be made about Adam Lind as well though many in baseball think he is still capable of building on last years performance. As a weak defensive player, the market for him would be more limited. Alex would be doing his best for the long term interest of the team in considering such a move knowing that we are at least 2-3 years away from fighting for a playoff spot in the AL Beast.

We all miss Roy Halladay right now and are still mourning his loss and seeing him pitch every 5th day. In 2 years with Wallace and Drabek in our lineup he will be a distant memory. The same could be said of Aaron Hill if traded for a similar package.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Pitching Gets It Done Again

Saturday Game Summary

Ricky Romero continues to show maturity as again tonight as he gave up too many walks but managed to only give up one earned run over 5 innings. The Jays lefthander threw 77 pitches but only 42 for strikes which is why he walked 3. He needs to continue to improve on his command and cut down on the walks, but you've got to love how he manages to battle on the mound and get results even when he doesn't appear to have his best stuff. The bullpen of Valdez, Downs, Frasor only gave up 1 run in 3 innings. Only Rommie Lewis who will be in Las Vegas allowed runs from the relievers. The hitters however were not as effective leaving 9 on base and hitting 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Bautista continued hot with 2 hits while Wells, Lind, Hill appear ready for the season. Encarnacion and Snider on the other hand continue to struggle.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Team Coming Together as Dust Settles

Starting 5 Clarified Further

The finger injury to Scrabble was more serious than expected and a fracture to the finger he though just bruised will keep him out at least 4-6 weeks. We all know that gripping a baseball to throw a specific pitch is an art with many subtelties. Having an injured finger on your pitching hand may take longer to heal completely and get back to the point where he can fine tune his pitches to establish himself permanently with the Jays.

This is similar to hitters who have hand injuries which can have a disastrous affect on their swing and mechanics. Just ask Lyle Overbay who is still trying to get back to the point he was at in 2006 when he hit 22 homers and had 92 RBI. After a mid season injury being hit by a pitch he has never been the same.

For the Jays it makes their job easier as Rzep hasn't been particularly effective the last 3 outings. After Cecil's outing today, the decision is much easier for Gaston. He can now have a clear conscience putting Eveland and Cecil in the rotation spots and Tallet back in the pen where he's most effective. With the demotion to Carlson, the Jays need Tallet's arm in the pen to give them some lefthanded depth and long relief flexibility.


Valdez had another scoreless outing and is beginning to look like a steal off the waiver wire. Downs, Gregg, Valdez, and Camp to get to closer Fraser with Tallet and Janssen in long relief is an exciting way to start the season. This team will pitch well though inconsistently due to its youth. If we hit at all - meaning Wells, Oberbay, Encarnacion we'll win enough games to reach .500.

Strong Bullpen Keeps Starters’ Heads Straight

Jeff Blair makes a good point about the Toronto bullpen and its makeup on a bunch of young starters psychologically. Though Anthopolous is unlikely to trade for anyone other than a legitimate prospect with some future upside, such a trade is likely to involve one or more of Frasor, Downs, or Tallet our strongest trading chips. This would weaken our likelihood of closing out games with perhaps an inconsistent Kevin Gregg left to close out games the games with unproven setup men behind him. This could have a profound effect on young starters who create a lead only to have it blown late in the game by a leaky bullpen.

Such a situation is something all starters have to get used to as it happens to the best teams and the most proven relievers. What you don’t want to have happen is the fear of losing a game get into a pitcher’s psyche so much that he goes longer than he should and hurts his arm and the team’s future as a result. Add to this the fact that the manager can become obsessed with an ineffective pen and begin to extend his starters longer.

This has happened frequently in the past with other teams and through trade happen to the Jays. The difference is that there is much talent on this team and likely someone from Roenicke, Merkin, Accardo, Purcey who would step up to the table and take over one of those roles. Remember, trades also create opportunity and many young players just need someone to show confidence in them and a chance to play. Once handed a job full time that new belief in themselves produces previously unseen result.

Updates


Joey Garthright signed a minor league deal with the Orioles. It’s no surprise that somebody picked him up in spite of his disastrous spring. The one thing you can’t teach is speed and Garthright has it to be used as a late inning defensive replacement or pinch runner. Jays just didn’t have a spot for him and weren’t going to make one.

With Purcey and Carlson being optioned to AAA, and the Jays short of lefties out of the pen now, it’s more than possible that the Jays will use Eveland’s strong spring to put him in the rotation and move Tallet back to the pen where he belongs. Rzep didn’t do anything to enhance his chances last night. My bet is that if Cecil has another strong outing, with his minor hand injury, Rzep will end up in Las Vegas to recover and continue fine tuning.

Jeremy Reed the other man demoted to AAA impressed enough people with his strong spring that he will be the first one called if the Jays need an alternate outfielder due to injury.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What Were They Thinking?

Another Bonehead Article by Fox

Foxsports has another article today which tells me that they haven’t done their research and know nothing about what’s going on in Blue Jays’s spring camp. They focus on Hill’s stats last year which are likely to decline somewhat, the loss of Scutaro’s bat, and the Roy Halladay trade. If this team were in L.A. or N.Y. they would be focus on all the shrewd moves by GM Alex Anthopolous, the upside of all the young players, particularly the pitching, as well as the likely comeback of Wells, Overbay, and Encarnacion. I predict there will be a bundle of writers who will be shaking their heads come mid-season asking themselves “where did these guys come from?”

Deperate Trade

On the surface, it doesn’t look like the Tigers got much in their deal for Nate Robertson. They had to pay almost all his salary and got a mid grade prospect projected as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen in return. Jay Voss an 8th round pick in 2007 had decent stats in AA last year but seems to be far below the original expectation the Tigers had in a deal for Robertson. Since they had to pay most of his salary anyway, I guess they didn’t feel he would perform enough to be at least a B level free agent in which they’d pick up a draft pick better than Voss.

Foxsports Reports Roster Limits are Inhibiting Trades

With so many teams at or close to the max of 40, including the Jays, teams have little room to add a player, without risking losing someone else. The roster sizes according to mlb.com at the moment. Note that players on the 60 day DL do not impact the 40 man roster.

Angels – 38
Astros – 39
Athletics – 40 (1 player on 60-day DL)
Blue Jays – 40 (3 players on 60-day DL)
Braves – 39
Brewers – 39
Cardinals – 38
Cubs – 37
Diamondbacks – 40
Dodgers – 39
Giants – 38
Indians – 40 (1 player on 60-day DL)
Mariners – 40
Marlins – 37
Mets – 37
Nationals – 40 (1 player on 60-day DL)
Orioles – 40
Padres – 40
Phillies – 38
Pirates – 40
Rangers – 41 (2 players on 60-day DL)
Rays – 37
Red Sox – 40
Reds – 40 (1 player on 60-day DL)
Rockies – 40
Royals – 40 (1 player on 60-day DL)
Tigers – 40
Twins – 40
White Sox – 39
Yankees – 37

For the Jays this should not be a problem since anyone they trade will likely come from the 40 man pitching roster anyway and for which we have a suitable replacement. My expectation is that whoever the Jays acquire will be a prospect that may not yet be required to be put on the 40 man roster. So we could effectively free up a spot or two on the roster through trade.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Not Flying Under the Radar, Off the Radar

It must be because we’re north of the 59th parallel otherwise how could someone like Peter Gammons completely miss the boat in his article about teams that will surprise. I think with Doc gone and the Jays being one of the majors youngest teams, everyone has just assumed they will be one the deadbeats of of the American League. So fine, let us fly under the radar and let teams take us for granted. We’ll turn that into victories.

All I can say is WOW!!!

How can you not get excited about our starting pitching when you see a performance like the one by Dana Eveland yesterday (6 IP, 4 H, 8 SO). If such an overpowering day doesn’t solidify his spot in the starting rotation, then I don’t know what he has to do to convince people he belongs. I guess the Jays will just have to call the Diamondbacks to get a little Eveland love. Having once been acquired by trade, don’t you think they would love to have him in their rotation now? He may have to bide his time in the pen until he gets his opportunity through underperformance or injury to one of the other starters. In any case it’s a nice problem to have.

The Suitors For Bullpen Help Will Come

Aaron Hill Exceeds “Potential”

Great article today about the scouting and drafting history of
Aaron Hill. It is evidence to me about how tough a scout’s job is not only from a geographic coverage standpoint but also from a perspective standpoint. Just imagine how difficult it is when you’re traveling a lot and away from your family, but you’re sent to see several games in which there are lots of players but only 1 or 2 which you’re targeting. If you don’t go with a broad view and an open mind, you can miss a player of Hill’s caliber and potential. Now that is a real talent that must take years to develop and it’s why teams value the really exceptional scouts so highly.

Bullpen by Committee Seldom Works

Minnesota Twins have decided that for the time being they are going to attempt to replace Joe Nathan with a “bullpen by committee” arrangement in the hopes of avoiding having to trade for a legitimate closer. Many teams have attempted this experiment, some with limited success, but most with disastrous results. The best example I can think of regarding the need for a full-time undisputed closer is the Blue Jays themselves.

From their inception in 1977 until Henke become the undisputed closer in 1986, the Jays didn’t have any choice but to go with a bull by committee approach. They didn’t have the talent or depth to give someone the job and let them run with it, and tried on occasion (Bill Caudill) to trade for a legitimate closer to solve their problem.

The Jays had some pretty good teams in those days logging 89 wins in ’83 and ’84 and then 99 wins in ’85 to win their first division title. Yet in those 3 years they had a bullpen by committee with 5 pitchers recording saves in ’83, 6 in ’84, and even 5 in ’85 when they had their best year ever. From 1986 through 1992 when Henke left as a free agent, it was left to Henke and Mark Eichorn and then Henke and Duane Ward to do the closing, with dramatically better results.

This is why teams give such big contracts to free-agent closers like Billy Wagner, Francisco Rodriguez, and our own B.J. Ryan. All GM’s know that a strong closer can put those marginal games in the win column and enhance your chances of post-season. The Twins know this too and will finally resolve themselves to trade for a closer long before the trade deadline.

Unless Brad Lidge gets healthy and asserts himself, the Phillies will be in a similar position. There are other teams with playoff aspirations such as the Cubs who don't have the depth in relief they'd like to have. This doesn't even count the teams we can't identify yet who through injury or performance haven't experienced a need yet. The deeper into the season get, the better the trade options for the Jays.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jays to Be Different Team by Mid Season

Now Tallet a Trade Target
Bullpens in Disarray article identifies all the teams who are potential candidates for one of our surplus of relievers. Jason Frasor is mentioned most often not only because of his experience as a closer as well as setup man but also because of his contract. However, Brian Tallet is now being mentioned often for those teams who are looking for a starter and that includes the Diamondbacks and now the Mariners with Cliff Lee on the shelf.

A deal could happen before the season opens but is more likely to happen sometime in May after a few weeks of reality settling in especially for the teams with dreams of contending like the Cubs, Twins, and Phillies. An outstanding start to the season by Frasor and Tallet could elevate their value in the eyes of the teams in need and get us maximum value in return, perhaps more than we might expect to receive at any other time. I have no doubt that AA has our bevy of new scouts working overtime becoming familiar with the prospects of each team.

My Changes to Projected Lineup
I love yesterday’s debate by Jordan Bastian about the opening day lineup. It is nice to have so many question marks with potential positive outcomes such as the McCoy vs. Reed debate for the last bench spot or having so much pitching that it’s hard to make decisions. With Dana Eveland and Merkin Valdez out of options and showing so well in camp I would hate to lose either of them without getting something of value in return. With so many teams short on pitching, I would keep them both in the lineup and send others who, though may be deserving, to Las Vegas for more fine tuning.

Bastian picks Starters: RHP Shaun Marcum, LHP Ricky Romero, RHP Brandon Morrow, LHP Brian Tallet, LHP Marc Rzepczynski with a potential flip/flop between Rzep and Cecil. Though Rzep and Cecil both continue to show flashes of brilliance, they have also been inconsistent and are also working on new pitches. It wouldn’t hurt either one to start the year in AAA to continue working on both. A starting staff of Marcum, Romero, Morrow, Eveland, and Tallet doesn’t change much considering Eveland’s performance this spring and his previous major league experience.

Bastian picks Relievers: RHP Jason Frasor (closer), LHP Scott Downs, RHP Kevin Gregg, RHP Shawn Camp, LHP Dana Eveland, RHP Casey Janssen, LHP Jesse Carlson. With Eveland now in the starting rotation, you can insert Valdez in place of Eveland in this list and not reduce the effectiveness of our bullpen much. That leaves Purcey to hone his relieving skills in AAA and be ready for call up in case of trade or injury.

The Rays manager, Joe Maddon has been quoted on multiple locations that he loves the Jays pitching and it not for decimation by serious injuries (Marcum, Litsch, McGowan) we would have had a very competitive team last year. This from a man managing a team with a pretty strong rotation of his own!

I too like the prospects for this year better than last even without Doc at the #1 spot and it will only get better as the year goes on and the young starters in particular gain more experience. In addition, the potential replacements in case of injury – starters Rzep, Cecil, later in the season Litsch, McGowan and in the bullpen – Accardo, Purcey, Roenicke make us very deep compared to previous seasons.

Mark my words, this team will look very different by end of season. Having see AA in action already, the man has a plan and he will be jumping on every opportunity to turn this current surplus of pitching into some ripe talent on the farm. Now add to that the large number of draft picks we have this June and our farm system should move up to at least the middle of the pack this year.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Status Quo Remains from Today's Game

Todays game didn't really clarify anything further for the Jays today. Tallet, Janssen, Accardo all pitched outstanding giving up 0 runs over the 8 innings they pitched. Several players continued their hot streaks with Jeremy Reed and Bautista each having 2 hits while Mike McCoy was 1 for 2 and Brad Emaus had a hit in his only at bat. Joey Garthright on the other hand had another 0 for 3 basically cementing the fact he'll not start the year with the Jays.

Jeremy Reed has certainly earned a spot as a backup but likely will be squeezed out by McCoy due to McCoy's speed and position flexibility. Let's hope the Jays can find a way to send him to the minors as he would be a great callup in the event of injury. Emaus continues to impress and as I posted a few days ago, he is looking like a major leaguer with each passing game. Where he plays and who he replaces is big question, but if he keeps hitting and knocking in runs the team will find a spot for him in the future.

You've got to like the way some of the Jays prospects are performing in spot action as well. Welinton Ramirez who hit .317 in the minors with 29 doubles and 17 SB was 1 for 2, while Darin Mastroianni last year hit .297 with 70 stolen bases and finished at AA had a hit in his only appearance.

Dream of Future Jays Stars

Sporting News has a great section on the upcoming MLB draft and this week’s “mock” draft which provides great food for discussion about possible future Blue Jays. This week has the Jays drafting a pitcher out of Ohio State named Alex Wimmers. They just happen to have a profile of Wimmers as well which makes for interesting reading.

Ken Rosenthal reports that the Cubs, Twins, D'backs all have need for pitching with the D'backs need being specifically for starters. Apparently the Tigers Nate Robertson doesn't quite cut it for Arizona so it is unlikely one of the Jays young starters would either. However, this is where Dana Eveland is an ace in the hole. He is a known quantity to them having been in their organization already prior to being part of the Dan Haren deal. The Twins and Cubs continue to scout Frasor and Downs but don't expect to make a deal to start the season.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Clubhouse Rumblings and More

Interesting article in the Globe and Mail this morning about the Jays clubhouse today compared to when Doc Halladay was with us. Amazing how people remember things differently once someone has been traded. In all the years Doc was with the Jays I never heard anything said that was other than admiration for Doc, his work ethic, quiet leadership, and willingness to help people. Even taken with a grain of salt, I guess one never knows what goes on behind closed doors.

Rumor has it the Phillies are looking for pitching depth and are looking to pick up a pitcher who is out of options . I’m guessing the Phillies are hoping for a cheap alternative off the waiver wire or someone DFA. The Jays have lots of players who could potential fit this category who might fit the purpose in a minor deal though the farm is a little thinner after the Halladay deal.

A Dallas newspaper reports that the Ranger’s bullpen is full of holes and requires shoring up. Rangers have one of the highest rated farm systems in all of baseball and might be willing to part with a lower level talent to make a deal. Rangers have many of the parts in place to compete for a playoff spot today so it’s just a matter of filling in the gaps. Their prospect list includes a couple of top outfielders but is full of top young pitching prospects at the lower levels but tons of upside.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Other Team’s Needs Becoming Clearer

1B Situation Could Open UP
Lyle Oberbay is very quietly putting together a very nice spring. With yesterday’s game he is now hitting .435 with 10 hits in 23 at bats including 5 doubles and 8 RBI. Let’s hope he continues to pound the ball throughout the spring and into the season which will enhance his trade value.

Teams Continue to Talk Up Jays Relievers
Great feature on Fox Sports about 10 top trade possibilities and the teams who they could be going to. Notables include both Scott Downs and Jason Frasor going to the Rays and Cubs respectively.

We Could Trade a Starting Pitcher Too
Sports Illustrated notes that the Dodgers are sorely in need of SP depth behind Kershaw and Billingsly. Could they be interested in one of our young starters and be willing to include SS Dee Gordon or OF Andrew Lambo in return? A year ago, Baseball America did an article which ranked prospects by position and Lambo was on the same list with similar or better stats than Travis Snider. Anybody interested?

Anyone Could Be Traded
With Boston Red Sox middle infield situation becoming murky with injuries to Dustin Pedroia and Jeff Lowrie, could they be interested in super sub Mike McCoy as a backup? With Boston fighting the Yankees for playoff turf, perhaps someone with even more experience and a stronger track record like John McDonald? Though Pedroia has been cleared to continue playing, one never knows what can happen when players try to play through those nagging injuries. The Red Sox can’t afford to fall behind in the standings even early in the year and don’t have suitable backups for the middle infield. Even though we’re not flush with middle infielders ourselves, you just know that AA is waiting in the wings looking for opportunities to add to our organizational depth. He has shown himself adept at adding pieces to the puzzle in the short term to enhance the team’s future. Those phone calls will come and I believe almost anyone is available for the right price.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Security in the Infield

Brad Emaus - Not a Forgotten Man Yet
Brad Emaus has continued to impress this spring with his gritty play as well as his performance at the plate. To date he has hit .375 with 6 RBI and played solid even if unspectacular defense. This is a continuation of last year’s spring when he tore the cover off the ball and impressed the Blue Jay brass. What we have in Emaus is the making of a solid major leaguer who continues to improve over time. Though not blessed with speed, he is discriminating at the plate, does take a walk and gets on base regularly – the makings of a good #2 hitter.

At Tulane Emaus played both 2B and 3B and the Jays have been using him at both positions as a potential backup or future position player at 3B. Third would not be his natural position, but he can defend effectively there and does hit enough home runs to be dangerous.

Though slightly larger in stature, Emaus is a poor man’s Dustin Pedroia considering the way the 2 men play the game. Without the natural talent of Pedroia, Emaus will have to scratch and claw his way to the big team. However, without any depth behind Aaron Hill (except for backup John McDonald) in their permanent lineup and lots of opportunity at 3B considering the Jays’ options there, Emaus could surprise a lot of people given an opportunity due to injury. He has performed admirably everywhere he has played and at every level. There is no reason to believe he wouldn’t do so at the major league level.

More Jason Frasor Trade Fodder
Buster Olney writes that the Padres are likely to hold off trading Heath Bell until closer to the trading deadline to drive up his value. His track record might be appealing to the Twins to replace Joe Nathan, but they are more likely looking for a short term solution. Jason Frasor would fit the bill of requiring only a one year commitment and the concession of a middle level prospect like Ben Revere. If Frasor performed to his potential he could end up being a class A free agent. This would end up being a bonus for the Twins, returning a couple of potential draft choices in return.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tallet True to Form

Sporting News reports that the Twins have confirmed interest in Padres Heath Bell as a possible replacement candidate if injured Joe Nathan requires season ending surgery. This is not good news for the Jays likelihood of trading one of their excess arms from the bullpen if true.

Though Jason Frasor would be cheaper both in terms of dollars and prospects in a trade, with the Twins in serious contention for a playoff spot perhaps they feel they need a closing candidate who has a stronger track record. If so, then Bell would be their man having recorded 42 saves last year. With a $4 million contract he would be a great solution from a financial standpoint but would likely cost the Twins 2-3 prospects to acquire. Jason Frasor on the other hand could be had for the like of Ben Revere who has had a strong spring for the Twins.

Roster Situation Clearing

The appearance of a shoulder problem for Brandon Morrow could have created a potential SP spot for Dana Eveland or Brett Cecil who is working with a new grip for a cutter. Both Cecil and Rzep are working with Bruce Walton trying to come up with a pitch that will induce more ground balls in an attempt to reduce their pitch counts and having some success it appears. This would help them go deeper into games which would reduce the burden on the bullpen and help add some of the innings we’ll miss from Roy Halladay. The good news is that Morrow's shoulder problem was minor and he has been cleared to throw.

Brian Tallet proved true to form today. After what was a strong outing last time out, today he gave up 5 earned runs in 5 innings. As a starter he's a pitcher who give you under a .500 record with an ERA of 5.0. Cito please read my words - "Dana Eveland" is a better bet to start the year. Put Tallet back in his best role as long reliever and spot starter in case of injury.

The bullpen looks different too due to the potential addition of David Purcey and his new 2 pitch repertoire. Merkin Valdez has an arm scouts drool over so it appears the Jays will keep him in the hopes they can ease him into a bullpen role and eventually throw strikes. Dana Eveland makes this team because he has earned it based on performance, experience, and the fact he’s out of options. Jays won’t let him go without getting something in return in a trade. It appears Jeremy Accardo is the odd man out since he has options left. He’ll complain about it but will go to AAA in hopes that someone doesn’t perform or they need him due to injury. I believe he has zero trade value at this point, but he needs to go to another organization to get a chance to play again.

With Travis Snider beginning to hit, it looks like he has earned the job and confidence of management that this could be his breakout year. Let’s hope they’re right, we’ll need his bat to overcome some of the leads our young pitching staff will give up. Mike McCoy has earned a bench role and it’s likely Encarnacion starts on the DL opening a temporary spot for Jeremy Reed.

We will have a very full DL at the start of the season but it will be full of players with huge potential. The fortunate thing is that the replacements aren’t too shabby and make for a young, exciting, and competitive team. We aren’t going to be pushovers and will have a pitching staff that could shut down the opponent’s lineup on any give occasion. Pending any additions by trade, it’s looking very encouraging.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Nathan Need Replacement?

Sporting News reports that the Twins have confirmed interest in Padres Heath Bell as a possible replacement candidate if injured Joe Nathan requires season ending surgery. This is not good news for the Jays likelihood of trading one of their excess arms from the bullpen if true. Nathan was due to test his arm yesterday but I haven't heard whether he did or not and if he did what the outcome was. All signs however point to the need for surgery.

Though Jason Frasor would be cheaper both in terms of dollars and prospects in a trade, with the Twins in serious contention for a playoff spot perhaps they feel they need a closing candidate who has a stronger track record. If so, then Bell would be their man having recorded 42 saves last year. With a $4 million contract he would be a great solution from a financial standpoint but would likely cost the Twins 2-3 prospects to acquire. Jason Frasor on the other hand could be had for the like of Ben Revere who has had a strong spring for the Twins.

Just as injuries about beginning to have an impact on our lineup, so too will this happen to other teams. With an excess of pitching to deal, we will have no shortage of trading partners either before the end of spring or shortly after the season begins and teams realize what they finally have. Once some candidates for post season emerge, AA's infamous blackberry will begin ringing. Pitching is always in short supply, so teams will want what we have to deal.

Roster Situation Clearing

I posted a few days ago about it being too early in the spring to be certain about the lineup going north. With a couple of weeks still left in spring training, demotions and injuries are beginning to help clarify the potential opening day lineup.

The appearance of a shoulder problem for Brandon Morrow could create a potential SP spot for Dana Eveland or Brett Cecil who is working with a new grip for a cutter. Both Cecil and Rzep are working with Bruce Walton trying to come up with a pitch that will induce more ground balls in an attempt to reduce their pitch counts and having some success it appears. This would help them go deeper into games which would reduce the burden on the bullpen and help add some of the innings we’ll miss from Roy Halladay.

The bullpen looks different too due to the potential addition of David Purcey and his new 2 pitch repertoire. Merkin Valdez has an arm scouts drool over so it appears the Jays will keep him in the hopes they can ease him into a bullpen role and eventually throw strikes. Dana Eveland makes this team because he has earned it based on performance, experience, and the fact he’s out of options. Jays won’t let him go without getting something in return in a trade. It appears Jeremy Accardo is the odd man out since he has options left. He’ll complain about it but will go to AAA in hopes that someone doesn’t perform or they need him due to injury. I believe he has zero trade value at this point, but he needs to go to another organization to get a chance to play again.

With Travis Snider beginning to hit, it looks like he has earned the job and confidence of management that this could be his breakout year. Let’s hope they’re right, we’ll need his bat to overcome some of the leads our young pitching staff will give up. Mike McCoy has earned a bench role and it’s likely Encarnacion starts on the DL opening a temporary spot for Jeremy Reed.

We will have a very full DL at the start of the season but it will be full of players with huge potential. The fortunate thing is that the replacements aren’t too shabby and make for a young, exciting, and competitive team. We aren’t going to be pushovers and will have a pitching staff that could shut down the opponent’s lineup on any give occasion. Pending any additions by trade, it’s looking very encouraging.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Eveland Traded to Make Room?

Eveland to Diamondbacks?
As I posted a few days ago, the Dbacks once traded for Dana Eveland but had to give him up in the Dan Haren deal. Apparently, they continue to have interest in him and who wouldn’t the way he has pitched this spring. MLB Rumors reports that they are now looking for some starting pitching depth and Eveland is still on their radar. Trading Eveland, who is out of options would clear up the currently muddy pitching situation for the Jays and clearly hand the 5th starter job to Brian Tallet who has done a strong job this spring but who has been clearly out pitched by Eveland. Sometimes you also have to read between the lines and Cito keeps saying he only needs one lefty out of the pen. So if that one lefty is Downs, then it means Cito sees Tallet as a starter and Eveland is dispensable.

Relief Situation Staring to Clear
Blue Jays offered rule 5 selection Zech Zinicola back to Washington yesterday. As I suspected and wrote the other day, AA tried to cut a deal with Washington to keep him but the Nationals declined since they wanted him back. With the large number of arms in Jays camp this year, Zinicola would have had to make a huge impression to stay with the club, something hard to do considering he only got to pitch 3+ innings. Jays also sent Zack Jackson and Lance Broadway to minor league camp and released Casey Fien. I find it interesting to note that Merkin Valdez is still in the running considering his inflated ERA. Apparently, the Jays like his stuff and see enough flashes of brilliance to take him north with them in light of him being out of options.

The Toronto Sun has indicated that on Thursday, general manager Alex Anthopoulos stated the obvious when he said that, if all things were equal, then the Jays probably would go with the pitchers who were out of options and send the others to the minors. It's called protecting yourself and it is done by all 30 major league teams. "It certainly goes into it and we told all the players," Anthopoulos said. "We met with them before spring training started and said to all the guys that have options: 'The guys who have options, you guys are more at risk.' "The guys that didn't have options, I told: 'You've got to make this team, otherwise you can get exposed to waivers, you can clear, you can get claimed." The ones that have options I said: 'The reality of it is, you have options. If it is close, you have the risk of being sent down. It means your performance has to be that much stronger if it is a tie between the two of you. "

Bullpen - Gregg, Frasor, Downs, Camp, Eveland (assuming he doesn't get traded and Tallet is the 5th starter), Janssen, and Merkin assuming Carlson is on the DL to open the season. Purcey they can continue to explore using him in a relief role with his reduced pitching repertoire and showcase him for a potential trade. The spectre of a trade of one of our middle relievers would also clear things up a bit.

In any case, Tallet likely moves to the pen once McGowan is ready and a spot has to clear for Carlson when he is back to health. Lots of options, none of which are bad and lots of trade material available to strengthen our team or farm once other teams have injuries or holes in the rotation appear.